For peak performances, it was quite a weekend.
- The highest-rated turf horse in the world, Winx, put in what many are calling the best run of her career with a phenomenal victory in the Group One George Ryder Stakes in Sydney on Saturday.
- Joao Moreira, arguably the world’s best jockey, claimed the biggest win of his career as Rapper Dragon created history in the Hong Kong Derby, becoming the first horse to sweep the four-year-old series.
- Sizing John stamped himself as the new jumps king with a powerful win in the Gold Cup on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, to go with his Irish Gold Cup victory from the start before.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s start our wrap at Rosehill in Australia, where a bog track didn’t put the slows on a terrific day of racing.
While it was called Golden Slipper day, Winx was the main attraction and she lived up to top billing.
Coming up against genuine Group One horses in Le Romain and Chautauqua, there was a thought they could at least give her a reasonable contest. Nope, she donkey-licked them.
Gary Crispe from Timeform was the first to call it the best run of her career and plenty of other handicappers and good judges agree.
That’s a big acknowledgement considering she’s won the past two Cox Plates by a combined 13 lengths.
Anyway, she looks unbeatable going into the Queen Elizabeth Stakes before heading off for a spell and getting ready for a campaign aimed to deliver a third Cox Plate in October.
Winx goes to new Timeform peak rating in George Ryder 134 up 1lb from Cox Plate #gowinx— Gary Crispe (@garycrispe) March 18, 2017
Classy filly She Will Reign took out the Slipper, the richest two-year-old race in the world, thanks to a gun ride from Ben Melham while giving trainer Gary Portelli the biggest win of his career.
Our Ivanhowe and Hartnell ran the quinella in the Group One Ranvet Stakes and both are set to head to Hong Kong for the QE II Cup, where they will come up against local star Werther.
In the two other majors on the day (yes, there were five Group Ones on the card), New Zealand Derby hero Gingernuts franked that form with a strong win in the Rosehill Guineas – he’s right on target for the Australian Derby – while Russian Revolution claimed The Galaxy.
Plenty has already been written about Joao Moreira’s remarkable victory on Rapper Dragon in the Hong Kong Derby, so I won’t double up, check out our stories:
That’s one short of the previous record for most winners in a day by a Hong Kong jockey (you know, prior to that eight-timer a couple of weeks ago).
It’s as if his routine brilliance has desensitised people from realising how big an achievement that is and how difficult it is to do.
From a future perspective, Rapper Dragon looks to be competitive at the top level against open-age horses in Hong Kong already and will now go to the Champions Mile.
It was a joy to watch the Cheltenham Festival – it’s definitely on the bucket list – and Sizing John (I wonder how John Size feels about this name) was terrific winning the Gold Cup, the biggest race of the four-day meeting.
Trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by Robbie Power, the seven-year-old backed up his Irish Gold Cup victory and another terrific effort to establish himself as a one of the top-liners in the game.
The people of Moone Village in County Kildare even gave Sizing John a welcome home parade when he got back to Ireland to celebrate his win.
But the most incredible finish occurred on Wednesday when Might Bite looked to have thrown away the Grade One RSA Novices’ Chase but somehow rallied to win – watch this.
It all seems like fun and games at Cheltenham, unless you’re this guy. Yuck.
Throwback to this amazing piece of footage from Cheltenham.... pic.twitter.com/Nhc7H8B46h— My Racing Tips (@myracingtips) March 19, 2017
Over in Japan and Arima Kinen winner Satono Diamond kicked off his four-year-old season with a strong victory in the Grade Two Hanshin Daishoten as he begins a campaign that will culminate in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
His next race is the Tenno Sho (Spring).
Last 800m G2 3000m Hanshin Daishoten won by superstar SATONO DIAMOND (Deep Impact) from CHEVAL GRAND and TOSEN BASIL pic.twitter.com/RfKaZLNp1x— G (@LongBallToNoOne) March 19, 2017
All eyes now move to the Meydan for the Dubai World Cup meeting on Saturday with American superstar Arrogate the headline horse. Hong Kong will be represented by Amazing Kids (Al Quoz Sprint) as well as Not Listenin’tome and Dundonnell (Dubai Golden Shaheen).